Sunday, May 9, 2010

Anime review: Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

I’m generally not a fan of dark fantasy anime series, due to their tendency to go overboard with blood and gore and sacrifice plot and character development. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust handles things quite differently from this traditional formula, without removing the darker elements from the story. Though I am not familiar with the series’ works outside of Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, the film does a great job as solidifying itself as a stand-alone piece.

The film begins with a human, Charlotte, being taken from her home by a carriage in the middle of the night. D is hired to return Charlotte from her alleged kidnapper, a vampire known as Baron Meier Link, who is deeply in love with Charlotte. To hinder D, Meier employs three monsters to guard Charlotte and the carriage during the daytime as he is unable to enter the sunlight. Though Meier tries to avoid violence unless provoked, his guards are much more prone to begin a brawl. While Meier and Charlotte are key players in the events of the film and more complex of characters than they initially let on, the other three members of the troupe are stereotypical henchmen who do little more than cackle and fight when their mission is threatened.

A short while into his chase D encounters a group of humans after the same bounty. All but one of these hunters uses traditional weaponry to fight Meier and his cohorts, as well as any zombies they encounter as they travel through a rather desolate world. The fifth member is bed-ridden and frail, though he is able to use astral projection on rare occasions, so long as his body can handle the strain. Though these hunters are separate from D, they follow him in hopes that he might ally himself with them. For the most part, these hunters are either played as stereotypes or not given enough involvement to develop as characters, which is both good and bad. They do not detract the story, allowing greater focus on Leila, D, and Meier, but there is plenty of potential that could have been expanded upon.

Leila, the sole female of the group, lost her parents to vampires many years ago. While she is initially concerned with the bounty for the return of Charlotte, she becomes sidetracked in chasing down D, as he is a dunpeal (half-vampire). The two aid each other on multiple occasions and are the two most prominent characters in the film.

As a dunpeal, D is constantly questioning his existence and the rationale of his parents. This plays into what he believes Charlotte and Meier’s fates should ultimately be. His situation as a half-breed makes his views of the world around him understandable, but his lack of emotional expression can make D seem boring at times. Thankfully, he has Left Hand, a parasite who – as his name implies – lives within D’s left hand. Left Hand provides information on the places D visits and helps him in tracking Meier through treacherous terrain. He has a sarcastic sense of humor, and while his involvement over the course of the film is minimal, he provides a good amount of comic relief to an otherwise dark and serious story.

The art of Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is very intricate and relies heavily on varying shades of green, brown, and red. Though a large portion of the film’s events take place at night, there are a few select scenes that occur midday by a lake filled with ruins of a building and the glistening sands of a vast desert. These provide a much-needed break from the overall bleak atmosphere of the film and somewhat fill a role as metaphors for Leila and D’s thoughts. There are a large number of fight sequences, though the blood isn’t excessive and the gory elements kept to a minimum, coming into play appropriately near the end of the film. The soundtrack is impressive, relying heavily on string instruments to create haunting melodies at calm points in the film and bringing in brass and drums for the more intense segments. Some viewers may find the opera-esque vocal pieces later in the film to be a bit repetitive and perhaps even annoying, as fitting as they may be. As far as English voice actors are concerned, the cast does a good job overall in portraying their respective characters. No one seems out of place in this regard, though they certainly aren’t going to win any awards for their contributions.

The story is a little confusing at the start of the film, giving viewers little information to base things off of. After the first thirty minutes or so, the focus begins to take shape and the story moves at a pace that is neither too fast nor too slow. The climax of the film is something that I think few viewers will see coming, but will find overall appropriate and enjoyable. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust's story comes full-circle and provides a satisfying conclusion to an hour and forty-minute film.

My rating: 8 (out of 10)

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